See the original bungee jump in Vanuatu

Annual ritual in Melanesia from which the bungee jump originated

Bungee jumping originated on the island of Vanuatu. This is a relatively unknown island in Polynesia. The sport we now know as bungee jumping comes from the Naghol. This people has lived here for centuries and has a rich culture. Including jumping from a wooden tower as the ultimate sign of daring.

Few people know, but on Vanuatu the original, but above all dangerous precursor to the bungee jump still takes place. For centuries the Naghol have jumped from wooden scaffolds with lianas around their ankles. And they land with their faces in the sand.

What does jumping on Vanuatu look like?

The ritual sees young men jumping of a wooden structures with only two vines, which reach almost to the ground, tied to their ankles.

It is associated with good health during the wet season, signifies their masculinity and can be a rite of passage for boys. Though not all men participate, and those who don’t are not considered weak or cowards. It is believed the ritual is actually based on the legend of a woman who tied vines to her ankles and jumped out of a tree and survived.

A young man jumps on Vanuatu.

When you witness the ritual you can see the men actually hit the sand, which is loosened beforehand to minimise their impact. Once they’ve jumped, the audience cheers loudly, and the party commences.

David Attenborough brought fame to the ritual in 1950 with his BBC documentary about the ‘land divers’ of Vanuatu.

A successful jump.

It is still practised and has become a tourist attraction, though it is regulated and no longer allowed to be filmed commercially. You can go and watch it happen on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, to the north-east of Australia. It’s quite gut-wrenching to experience.